Trade winds are starting to blow
Momentum building toward July 31 non-waiver trade deadline
With Major League Baseball approaching the halfway mark of the 2008 season, those gentle trade winds of late June could soon be blowing fiercely in July.
The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline looms as a major talking point over the next several weeks. Do you know where your favorite players are?
The bluffing and posturing could soon give way to wheeling and dealing as the buyers separate themselves from the sellers and front-office officials go forth with a telephone by their side and a mission to either make the playoffs this year or acquire pieces that will enable them to do so in the long term.
Here's some of the early scuttlebutt from clubs in both leagues as the momentum builds toward this year's trading deadline.
Phillies: The Phillies have grand visions of a deep playoff run and would like to fortify their starting rotation. C.C. Sabathia, Erik Bedard, Bronson Arroyo, Greg Maddux and A.J. Burnett are being discussed as possible trade bait, and Philadelphia could go after any of those established names.
The question is whether the Phillies would offer enough value to reel in a big-name starter. Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and Kyle Kendrick are controllable players who aren't breaking the bank. Top prospects Carlos Carrasco and Lou Marson would draw plenty of attention, but would Philadelphia part with them for short-term help?
Other prospects who are farther away include Adrian Cardenas, Dominic Brown and Greg Golson.
Yankees: Pitching is certainly a concern, with Chien-Ming Wang, Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes going down. Thus the Yankees are on the hunt for starters.
Just how much New York might be willing to sacrifice won't fully be known until general manager Brian Cashman evaluates an upcoming stretch against the Mets, Rangers, Red Sox and Rays.
If the Yankees are right in the race after the next few weeks, they might be willing to use the farm system as a bigger bargaining chip to lure a rotation innings-eater.
Nationals: A few weeks ago, GM Jim Bowden sounded a warning for those who might think Washington is ready for a fire sale.
"We are not here to tear down," Bowden said.
Maybe not, but the Nationals have to have their eyes on the long-term future as they look up from the bottom of the National League East. Look for Felipe Lopez and Paul Lo Duca to be shopped.
Lopez is scheduled to be a free agent after this season, and the Nats might eat part of his $4.9 million contract if they can find the right fit on the trade market. There has been speculation that the Cubs might be interested in him.
Lo Duca has become expendable because of the emergence of Jesus Flores. Right-hander Tim Redding might also draw some attention on the trade market.
Mets: Now that the club has inched back into striking position under interim manager Jerry Manuel, the Mets are looking to hold steady and possibly acquire rather than sell.
The anticipated June 27 return of Ryan Church would create a glut of outfielders, but none would become expendable until the return of Moises Alou.
The Mets may look for a right-handed-hitting first baseman with defensive skills to take away some of Carlos Delgado's workload. In addition, the club could look to upgrade its pitching. If New York could acquire a multi-inning reliever, that might enable Claudio Vargas to move into the starting rotation.
Tigers: In the suspect American League Central, the Tigers weren't buried by their woeful start. Consequently, they may not use the trade deadline to shed expensive pieces of their $135 million payroll.
If the Tigers are to surge from last place to first place in the division, there's a pressing need to bolster the starting pitching in the wake of Jeremy Bonderman's injury. Detroit could get experienced starting pitching quickly if it was inclined to give up top prospect Rick Porcello, but Porcello is said to be off-limits.
Marketable prospects the Tigers might part with include middle infielders Cale Iorg and Michael Hollimon.
If the Tigers should reverse gears and fall out of the race, veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez could go. Rodriguez is in the final year of his deal.
Reds: The Reds can barely see the Cubs in the NL Central at this point, and they have veterans who could prove intriguing to contending clubs.
The power of an Adam Dunn or a Ken Griffey Jr. might prompt GM Walt Jocketty's phone to ring often. Ryan Freel and Arroyo are other Reds' veterans who could have the value to bring significant young talent back into the Cincinnati organization.
Cubs: The Cubs don't seem to lack much at this point, but they would be selective buyers. Chicago could dangle outfielder Matt Murton and a cluster of prospects who have earned favorable reviews. Sabathia won't see his name associated with the Cubs unless Chicago could convince the Tribe to lower its demands for the lefty.
White Sox: A left-handed hitter with speed could top Chicago's wish list, but the White Sox don't have much to give up after GM Kenny Williams did most of his talent-accumulation work in the offseason. The White Sox might be inclined to shop utility infielder Juan Uribe. Look for this team to be minor buyers, if anything.
Pirates: Outfielders Xavier Nady and Jason Bay can expect to see their names constantly floated. Nady would be the most likely to go, as he has one more arbitration-eligible season. Left-hander Damaso Marte is also expected to draw substantial interest, as he's one of the best against lefty hitters.
Mariners: Seattle is definitely selling after a miserable first half. The prime chip is Bedard. The Mariners paid a dear price to get him, and the deal hasn't worked out, but some contending club might find Bedard particularly enticing in the heat of a pennant race.
Richie Sexson and Jose Vidro are also available if there are takers. Catching is a strength in the organization, but Kenji Johjima just signed a three-year, $24 million deal.
Twins: The Twins originally thought this would be a rebuilding year, but they find themselves right in the AL Central race. Possible trade pieces include Livan Hernandez, Mike Lamb and, perhaps, Boof Bonser.
Indians: Sabathia will be the key player to watch as the trade deadline approaches. He's a free agent after 2009, and he broke off contract negotiations with the Tribe at the start of Spring Training.
If the Indians flounder in the next few weeks, they might consider moving Paul Byrd or Casey Blake. But if they are in the race, they'll look to bolster a sagging bullpen.
Athletics: Sabathia's name has been linked to the A's, partially because he's a Bay Area product.
Oakland could look to deal closer Huston Street and starter Joe Blanton, as both are arbitration-eligible. Joey Devine or Santiago Casilla could assume Street's closer duties, and Gio Gonzalez or Chad Gaudin could take a rotation spot if Blanton were to be dealt.
Marlins: The Marlins will look to acquire if they continue to be a factor in the NL East. The club wants catching and bullpen help, and Lo Duca is on its radar.
Rays: The Rays could deal for an upgrade in right field and might be able to sacrifice some pitching to accomplish that mission.
If prize prospect David Price comes up, Andy Sonnanstine or Edwin Jackson could be bumped from the rotation and used as trade bait. Jason Hammel could also be shopped.
Braves: Atlanta may want to bolster its outfield by going after Freel.
The club has resisted making a panic trade with Mark Teixeira, even though there has been no indication it will be able to sign Teixeira before he can test the free agent market. The Braves might keep Teixeira all year, offer him arbitration and take Draft picks as compensation.
Royals: With a glut of middle infielders, the club could shop veteran second baseman Mark Grudzielanek. Although he has been slowed at times by a sore back, Grudzielanek is having another solid season both at the plate and in the field.
Right-hander Gil Meche has a no-trade clause to go with his $11 million salary and says that he isn't interested in going anywhere. The Royals would want a king's ransom for right-hander Zack Greinke and a lot for outfielder David DeJesus.
Giants: The Giants will look to sell as part of their rebuilding project. Ray Durham, Randy Winn, Tyler Walker and Jake Taschner could be at the forefront of the trade buzz. Some think that Winn would be a good fourth outfielder for a club geared toward the playoffs.
Rockies: Early speculation was that the Rockies might want to move Willy Taveras or Scott Podsednik. But with Taveras stealing bases at a rapid clip, the Rockies may want to move in a different direction.
Outfielder Ryan Spilborghs or infielder Jeff Baker could be trade-bait options. Considering the comeback they made last year, the Rockies don't figure to bail out in an NL West race where nobody has really taken charge.
Padres: The Padres might look to bolster their bullpen and plunge forward with hopes of making the long climb to the top of the NL West.
If San Diego struggles in the next few weeks and looks to sell, however, left-hander Randy Wolf might draw the best return. Clubs are expected to look at Maddux extensively, but he would have to sign off on a deal.
Astros: Roy Oswalt would consider going elsewhere, but there are very few teams that could make a trade for the right-hander and that would get his required approval.
Houston doesn't have the pieces to acquire pitching unless it parted with Hunter Pence, and that's highly unlikely.
Angels: The Angels are in good shape in the AL West and historically tend to stand pat at the trade deadline.
The club may want to tweak the bullpen, which had a few glitches here and there. The prime trade bait could be Juan Rivera, who has been the odd man out in a crowded outfield. Rivera is a .287 career hitter and may earn some attention. The Angels would probably want a pitching prospect or a lefty reliever for Rivera.
Orioles: Baltimore is looking to move high-priced veterans like Aubrey Huff, Jay Payton, Kevin Millar, Ramon Hernandez, Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford.
The Oriole with the most trade value is Brian Roberts. If the club is in the race through July, Baltimore might want to entertain the concept of talking about a long-term extension with Roberts. If not, Roberts could be shopped to draw prospects.
Brewers: The Brewers could make a run at Sabathia because owner Mark Attanasio has said the Milwaukee budget again allows for a big-ticket acquisition.
If the Brewers are in an acquisition mode, they almost certainly would focus on starting pitching. They hope to fill the void left by injured Yovani Gallardo.
Maddux or Wolf from San Diego might fill the bill. The Brewers may dangle Bill Hall, who has requested a trade. Another possibility would be considering offers for Ben Sheets before he reaches free agency.
Blue Jays: The status of Burnett will be closely monitored as the trade deadline approaches.
The hard-throwing right-hander got some attention recently when he admitted he would accept a trade to a team like the first-place Cubs "with open arms." Burnett is owed $24 million through 2010 if he doesn't opt out.
If Toronto hangs onto Burnett and he opts out, the Jays could get two first-round picks in next June's First-Year Player Draft.
Dodgers: With injured players such as Rafael Furcal, Andruw Jones, Nomar Garciaparra, Brad Penny and Hiroki Kuroda all returning around the All-Star break, GM Ned Colletti is in a wait-and-see mode.
The Dodgers have been reluctant to part with young talent, particularly outfielder Matt Kemp. It doesn't appear they would go in that direction.
Unless the club dives out of contention and moves a player like Penny or Derek Lowe, it's unlikely the Dodgers would be involved in a significant deal.
Red Sox: Boston has extraordinary depth across its roster, but pitching injuries have hit the club.
If the Red Sox could find value for the middle-relief corps, that might be an area of pursuit. Should Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz get healthy for the long haul, Coco Crisp could be trade bait in a crowded outfield.
Cardinals: Don't expect the Cards to be full-on buyers. It's inconceivable they would move prized prospect Colby Rasmus for even a rental as appealing as Sabathia.
Right-hander Anthony Reyes or catcher Bryan Anderson could be possibilities for a trade, if there is a proper fit.
Rangers: The Rangers will consider opportunities to tweak their bullpen, but not if they have to give up their best young talent.
One thing to watch is first base, where the Rangers have both Frank Catalanotto and Hank Blalock. One of those two could be used for barter.
Bob Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.